Can you feel it in the air? Spring is on its way, and with it, the exquisite flowers that we've been waiting for all winter. It turns out some of our favorite travel destinations in the U.S. and Western Europe happen to be home to some of the most beautiful explosions of spring flowers on Earth. Here, eight places to see the gorgeous spectacle.
1. TULIP TIME IN AMSTERDAM
Step into a Technicolor wonderland. Keukenhof Gardens (keukenhof.nl/en) outside Amsterdam is one of the world's most spectacular flower gardens in April when the tulips are in bloom. Take a guided tour, or rent a bike to go exploring. Or if you really want to indulge, book an Avalon Waterways (avalonwaterways.com) Tulip Time river cruises. The Netherlands is tulip-crazy all spring long, and Budget Travel loves Amsterdam for museums filled with Van Goghs and Vermeers, its charming canals, and affordable hotels.
2 CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Washington, D.C., decked out in cherry trees could melt the heart of even a politician. The trees were given to Washington in 1912 by the city of Tokyo and they attract about a half-million visitors each spring to blossom hotspots like the Tidal Basin. The National Cherry Blossom Festival (nationalcherryblossomfestival.org) traditionally runs through mid-April, with a grand parade this year on Saturday April 13. Your best bet for viewing the trees crowd-free is to visit before the parade weekend and hit the Mall before dawn to catch the blossoms as they're caressed by the dawn's early light.
3. EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN FESTIVAL IN ORLANDO
Walt Disney World is not just for kids, and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (disneyworld.disney.go.com) will delight grownups! March 6 through June 3, you'll find gorgeous blooming gardens, topiaries featuring plants in the shape of Disney characters, and outdoor kitchens cooking up seasonal treats, plus live entertainment.
4. ROSE FESTIVAL IN PORTLAND, OREGON
Portland, Oregon, the "Rose City" is heaven on earth for flower lovers in May and June. The Portland Rose Festival (rosefestival.org) includes parades and CityFair, with rides, concerts, and food along the waterfront. The festival also honors outstanding young women from local high schools with scholarships and mentoring from community leaders.
5. PARIS AND VERSAILLES(Anna Guryeva/Dreamstime)
If you visit Paris in springtime, don't stay cooped up inside, no matter how beautiful museums like the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay may be. After all, the Louvre's collection includes not only paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but also the Carrousel gardens and Tuileries, which offer explosions of spring color, fragrant paths, and inviting landscaping. And for a real dose of spring flowers, don't miss the Luxembourg Gardens and a day trip to Versailles!
6. GIVERNY, FRANCE
One of our favorite quotes about flowers comes from Claude Monet: "I work at my garden all the time and with love. What I need most are flowers, always. My heart is forever in Giverny." A trip to Giverny, about an hour outside Paris, will get you up close and personal with the ponds covered in water that inspired the artist, the tiny village where the important Impressionist lived and worked from 1883 to 1926.
7. DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN, PHOENIX, ARIZONA
Ready for something a little different? Get succulent! That's right, the Desert Botanical Garden (dbg.org) in Phoenix includes over 4,000 species of desert plants, including flowering cacti. Visitors to the Southwest during its flower season marvel at the beauty of these amazing prickly plants.The garden is one of the world's premier centers for the study of desert plants and aims to promote education, conservation, and protection of the plants of the Sonoran Desert as well as other desert plants around the world.
8. HAMPTON COURT, LONDON
We love the sometimes overlooked Hampton Court Palace (hrp.org.uk), reachable by boat from central London and arguably the most beautiful of the U.K.'s royal palaces. When visiting this site, substantially redesigned and rebuilt by Christopher Wren in the 17th century and heavily associated in earlier times with Henry VIII (of the six wives), you may very well lose your head over the palace's flower gardens and garden maze.